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Shepherds / Cottage Pie

This recipe is another top favourite of ours - it may not photograph easily (nothing with gravy ever does!) but boy is it tasty!

It’s thrifty too since it uses mince as opposed to more expensive joints or chunks of meat and goes pretty far if you need to feed a lot of people - perfect for the days you're not sure who might show up. This recipe tends to feed us both for 2 days plus we still usually have a small portion for one of us to have for lunch (Ryan usually wins...) but we’re admittedly quite greedy so would quite easily feed 6 regular portions! If you don't want to make quite that much then simply halve the recipe and use a smaller oven dish(es).

So is it a Shepherds pie or a Cottage pie? That's really up to you, like many traditional dishes the true name depends on the ingredients and even the area it's famous in. The way I see it, if I use Lamb or Mutton mince I call it a Shepherds pie and if I'm using Beef mince it's a Cottage Pie! I'm sure someone out there will be able to clear up the argument, leave us a comment below...


To simplify things for camping, tinned carrots and peas work really well in this recipe and the same goes for using dried ingredients like dried onion and other mixed vegetables. Dried ingredients are especially good if the overall weight of your supplies is an issue. Although we'd usually encourage the consumption of fresh and organic vegetables rather than tinned, we understand that tinned or dried veg is extremely convenient - waiting patiently in the depths of the cupboard for months (years even!) until you need it. Instant mash can also be used for the topping, however it does tend to stay a lot wetter than freshly made mashed potato (it still tastes good though!), use slightly less water when mixing it up than the packet suggests and make your gravy looser since it seems to absorb water from that layer.

What about using tinned meats? I'm aware that you can buy all manner of stews and pie fillings ready-to-eat in a tin and as I mentioned above it sure can be convenient to have something waiting in the wings if you get stuck but to be quite honest I wouldn't want to - though I'm admittedly very picky about the quality of my ingredients! The reality is that tinned meats tend to have the flavour of the can about them and I can't help but think of cat food... Perhaps you could make it work, or a vacuum-packed MRE stew or similar might work better, if you give it a go let us know how it turned out!

See below for the from-fresh recipe, feel free to substitute whatever element you need to:



for the mash

    Approx. 9 large potatoes (or 8 potatoes + 1 sweet potato)

    1-2 tbsp. butter

    a pinch of salt

    + optional milk or cream

for the filling

    2 medium carrots (diced)

    4 tbsp. fresh/frozen peas

    1 large onion

    2 or 3 cloves garlic (crushed)

    salt & pepper

    1 tsp of paprika

    400g minced meat (beef or lamb)

    3 x stock cubes or bouillon (1 veg + 2 beef/lamb) plus 1 litre of water

        or 1 litre of liquid beef stock

    2 tbsp. corn flour / arrowroot powder to thicken

    2 tbsp. oil/butter for frying



1. Brown the mince in a large frying pan/saucepan on a high heat. Add the oil, onion, and carrot and fry until slightly softened. (if using dried vegetables add with the stock and water instead)

2. Reduce the heat, add the garlic and stir into the mixture. Fry for a further minute before adding the stock (and water if needed).

3. Season with salt and pepper and add the paprika. Turn the heat down low, cover and allow to simmer for 10 mins.

4. Mix corn flour  or arrowroot powder in a mug with enough cold water to dissolve it into a liquid. Add a little at a time to the filling mixture, stirring continuously. Add the fresh/frozen peas (and whatever other veg you might wish to add) now. Continue to heat for a further 5-10 mins, stirring at regular intervals until the gravy thickens and the colour returns to translucency. Add a splash more water if you feel you need to/more watered corn flour until you're happy with the consistency.

5. Whilst you're waiting for the gravy to thicken, peel and chop the potatoes and boil with a pinch of salt.

6. When you're happy with the filling remove from the heat, pour into your chosen oven dish and allow it to cool slightly, uncovered. Don't worry if it looks like it's starting to dry out a bit, a skin on the top of the mixture will help the mash stay on top!

7. When the potatoes are tender, drain and mash along with the butter and milk or cream if using. Carefully scoop the mash onto the top of the filling, a fork helps to create a rough texture which will crisp up in the oven.

8. Bake at a moderately high temperature until the crust is golden brown and the filling is beginning to bubble up around the edges.

9. Serve with a further side of vegetables or baked beans if liked.


Work what you’ve got! This is one of those recipes where you can add many other vegetables if they need using up and not really alter the overall flavour. Try adding baby corn, asparagus stems, a little courgette, or some green beans to the mix instead of having them on the side! Why not even mash any spare root vegetables or cauliflower in with the potatoes too?


We hope you like this recipe as much as we do, don't forget to leave us a comment below!

Sarah is an artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more

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